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Oscars 2022: Final predictions in all 23 categories

Emilia Jones leans out a car window and flashed an "I love you" hand sign in the film “CODA.”
Emilia Jones and her “CODA” cast mates and director have already visited the White House. The film winning best picture feels like a done deal.
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This year’s Oscars are all about wild swings. At least that’s how the show’s producer, Will Packer, is putting it, and who am I to argue with the guy who dares to move eight Oscars off Sunday’s live telecast to make room for ... well ... who knows. Packer promises a ceremony that will be “vital, kinetic and relevant,” and with a skateboarder and snowboarder in the house, it looks like he’s got the “kinetic” part covered.

We’ll wait and see about the other two buzzwords.

With the Oscar ceremony’s traditions being turned upside down, it feels appropriate that the awards themselves are probably going to go their own way this year, bucking precedents left and right. You want a best picture winner with only three total nominations? “CODA” has you covered. How about a director winning an Oscar, but her movie getting nothing else? It might happen with Jane Campion and “The Power of the Dog.”

What other surprises are in store? Here are my final predictions for the 94th Academy Awards, making note of the categories that could be ripe for an upset.

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2022 Oscar winners full list, including ‘CODA,’ ‘Dune’ and Will Smith

March 27, 2022

BEST PICTURE

“Belfast”
“CODA”
“Don’t Look Up”
“Drive My Car”
“Dune”
“King Richard”
“Licorice Pizza”
“Nightmare Alley”
“The Power of the Dog”
“West Side Story”

Will win: “CODA”
Should win: “Drive My Car”
Could surprise: “The Power of the Dog”

When I saw “The Power of the Dog” shortly before the Telluride Film Festival, I wrote that Campion could win the director Oscar, but the movie itself would fall short. At the time, I figured it would be knocked off by something I hadn’t seen yet — “West Side Story,” “Don’t Look Up,” maybe “House of Gucci.” (RIP.) I can’t quite believe that the likely Oscar winner is a movie I had seen months before at the (virtual) Sundance Film Festival, a lovely coming-of-age story that can still reduce me to tears even after seeing it several times.

I underestimated “CODA.” And even after the room exploded with applause after it won the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ ensemble prize, I still had my doubts. “CODA” earned just three nominations, with no nods for director Siân Heder or film editor Geraud Brisson, categories a movie historically needs to win best picture. (1932’s “Grand Hotel” was the last movie to win best picture without at least one of these nominations.)

In the end, those omissions likely won’t matter because people just love this movie. Its story of familial connection is universal, while spotlighting Deaf actors in a groundbreaking fashion. It’s a feel-good movie for a feel-bad era. “Dog” could still prevail if it lands high on the preferential ballots of academy members voting for other auteur-driven films like “Drive My Car,” “Dune,” “Nightmare Alley” and “Licorice Pizza.” But the “CODA” crew has already visited the White House this week. It feels like a done deal.

The theme of this year’s Oscars is “Movie Lovers Unite,” a rallying cry for film fans at a time when the medium is facing an existential crisis accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 27, 2022

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DIRECTOR

Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

Will win: Campion
Should win: Campion

Campion winning her first directing Oscar has long felt as certain as the queen outliving us all. Her clapback against actor Sam Elliott, who had crudely criticized her movie on Marc Maron’s podcast, didn’t sit well with some voters, and she later learned that it’s always best not to speak off the cuff when accepting an award. But those misadventures also reveal a woman who isn’t slick or calculated, in her art or in conversation. She’ll win — and will likely have a speech at the ready this time.

Cutting important categories from its live telecast and Twitter-sourcing fan favorites won’t do a beleaguered motion picture academy any favors.

March 21, 2022

LEAD ACTRESS

Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”
Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”
Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”
Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Will win: Chastain
Should win: Cruz
Could surprise: Cruz

Three weeks ago, I wrote that the “only certainty when it comes to this year’s lead actress Oscar race is that there is no certainty.” Then Chastain won the SAG prize, shedding some tears during a moving acceptance speech, and had some fun on Twitter after receiving the meaningless Critics Choice award. Now, she’s a clear front-runner. And why not? It’s her third nomination (she’s due!), her colleagues like her (Chastain received a huge ovation at the Oscar nominees luncheon) and she’s up for a movie in which she had to sing, emote and wear a ton of appearance-altering makeup.

Cruz could pull off an upset, though. She’s in a better movie and gives, arguably, a career-best performance — though she has been wonderful in every movie she has made with Pedro Almodóvar. The academy’s international membership has grown over the last few years, and you can see their influence increase annually in both the nominations and the awards. This might be a spot where they hold sway.

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As the Oscars hope to stem a ratings slide, producer Will Packer discusses the controversy over this year’s changes to the show and what viewers can expect.

March 17, 2022

LEAD ACTOR

Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”
Andrew Garfield, “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”
Will Smith, “King Richard”
Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Will win: Smith
Should win: Cumberbatch

From here, the acting races lose any semblance of suspense. Like Chastain, Smith is a three-time Oscar nominee. (He’s due!) Like Chastain, his performance (as demanding tennis dad Richard Williams) involves a degree of transformation. Like Chastain, he has charisma to spare, and he knows how to use it, both in the work and on the campaign trail. He’s a movie star, a dying breed, and nearly everyone wants to see him holding this Oscar.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”
Judi Dench, “Belfast”
Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”
Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”

Will win: DeBose
Should win: DeBose

Once “West Side Story” began screening and audiences saw DeBose put her own electrifying stamp on a role that won Rita Moreno an Academy Award six decades ago, she pretty much had this won. Taking every other award leading up to the Oscars would prove that out. Some Oscar narratives are impossible to derail, particularly ones centered on work that produces such viewing delight.

Oscar nominee Ariana DeBose on her portrayal of Anita in Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ and why it’s time to retire the term ‘ethnically ambiguous.’

March 1, 2022

SUPPORTING ACTOR

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Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast”
Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”
J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Will win: Kotsur
Should win: Kotsur

Just a week ago on The Times podcast, I made a passionate argument for Smit-McPhee as the deserving winner, citing his masterful work as the frail young man who comes to own “The Power of the Dog.” Then I watched that scene in “CODA” again, the one where Kotsur touches Emilia Jones’ neck so he can feel the vibrations when she sings and, wow, that’s the movie, isn’t it? Plus, Kotsur’s story as a veteran Deaf actor finally enjoying mainstream career recognition is inspiring and beautiful. I want to see him give another speech. Smit-McPhee, 25, will hopefully have other chances to win.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“CODA,” Siân Heder
“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
“Dune,” Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth
“The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal
“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion

Will win: “CODA”
Should win: “Drive My Car”
Could win: “The Power of the Dog”

If I’m Oscar producer Will Packer, I’m saving this category for late in the ceremony. Keep the uncertainty alive for as long as possible, Will. Because if “CODA” wins here, a best picture victory will likely follow. Same if “The Power of the Dog” prevails. And if it’s “Drive My Car,” then we won’t know anything beyond the fact that voters have exceptional taste.

Many have failed to adapt Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel ‘The Power of the Dog.’ Jane Campion was perfect for it; both author and director deserve adulation.

March 16, 2022

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh
“Don’t Look Up,” screenplay by Adam McKay; story by Adam McKay & David Sirota
“King Richard,” Zach Baylin
“Licorice Pizza,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Worst Person in the World,” Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

Will win: “Licorice Pizza”
Should win: “Licorice Pizza”
Could surprise: “Don’t Look Up”

Branagh has eight career nominations spread over seven categories, an Oscar record. Anderson has earned 11 nominations over the years. Both are up for producing, writing and directing their respective movies. Neither has ever won. Which probably means that McKay will prevail, repeating his Writers Guild win for the buzzy “Don’t Look Up.” But I’m going to stick close to home and go with the L.A.-set “Licorice Pizza.” (And yes, I’m prepared to be disappointed.)

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ANIMATED FEATURE

“Encanto”
“Flee”
“Luca”
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines”
“Raya and the Last Dragon”

Will win: “Encanto”
Should win: “Encanto”

“Flee” made Oscar history, becoming the first film to earn nominations for international feature, documentary feature and animated feature. But Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s harrowing, heartrending refugee story may well have to content itself with that badge of distinction, as it’s up against popular titles in each of its nominated categories. Here, it’s Disney’s sensational “Encanto,” which also earned nominations for song and score, and is the most widely seen nominee. It won’t need any magic to win.

‘Encanto’ directors Byron Howard, Jared Bush and co-director Charise Castro Smith on why bringing authenticity to a fantasy tale was always a focus.

Nov. 29, 2021

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Ascension”
“Attica”
“Flee”
“Summer of Soul”
“Writing with Fire”

Will win: “Summer of Soul”
Should win: “Summer of Soul”
Could surprise: “Flee”

Questlove’s “Summer of Soul” mixes stirring social history with performances from Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Sly and the Family Stone. That’s likely an unbeatable combination, though if voters wanted to reward “Flee,” this would probably be the most likely spot.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

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“Drive My Car”
“Flee”
“The Hand of God”
“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”
“The Worst Person in the World”

Will win: “Drive My Car”
Should win: “Drive My Car”

“Drive My Car” also earned a best picture nomination, so Hamaguchi’s delicate drama has this category locked.

As ‘best movie of the year’ prizes pile up, including a shout out from former President Obama, director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi explains ‘Drive My Car.’

Dec. 20, 2021

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“Dune,” Greig Fraser
“Nightmare Alley,” Dan Laustsen
“The Power of the Dog,” Ari Wegner
“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Bruno Delbonnel
“West Side Story,” Janusz Kaminski

Will win: “Dune”
Should win: “The Power of the Dog”
Could surprise: “The Power of the Dog”

Wegner could become the first woman to win the cinematography Oscar. Given the quality of her collaboration with Campion, she should be celebrating on Sunday. But voters don’t pay as much attention to these kinds of distinctions as you might think, so I’ll give a slight edge to Fraser’s trippy sci-fi worlds over Wegner’s western landscapes.

COSTUME DESIGN

“Cruella,” Jenny Beavan
“Cyrano,” Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran
“Dune,” Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan
“Nightmare Alley,” Luis Sequeira
“West Side Story,” Paul Tazewell

Will win: “Cruella”
Should win: “Cruella”

Emma Stone’s Cruella was an aspiring fashion designer, so it’s no surprise that every dress in this movie was instantly iconic.

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Bringing iconic sci-fi villains to the screen in director Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ was a massive special effects undertaking for every department.

Oct. 22, 2021

FILM EDITING

“Don’t Look Up,” Hank Corwin
“Dune,” Joe Walker
“King Richard,” Pamela Martin
“The Power of the Dog,” Peter Sciberras
“Tick, Tick ... Boom!” Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum

Will win: “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”
Should win: “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”
Could surprise: “Dune”

“King Richard” and “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” won at the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards. “Dune” and “The Power of the Dog” have nominations in sound, which a film usually needs to win this Oscar. (Martin Scorsese’s 2006 best picture winner, “The Departed,” was the last movie to win editing without a sound nom.) So, yes, this is a wide-open category. Given how voters tend to equate “best” with “most,” I’m going with the flashy fervor of “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Coming 2 America,” Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer
“Cruella,” Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon
“Dune,” Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh
“House of Gucci,” Göran Lundström, AnnaCarin Lock and Frederic Aspiras

Will win: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Should win: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

If Chastain is going to win, the team applying all that mascara should as well.

For Jessica Chastain, highlighting Tammy Faye Bakker’s compassion was key to ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ — along with all that makeup

Aug. 23, 2021

PRODUCTION DESIGN

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“Dune,” production design: Patrice Vermette; set decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos
“Nightmare Alley,” production design: Tamara Deverell; set decoration: Shane Vieau
“The Power of the Dog,” production design: Grant Major; set decoration: Amber Richards
“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” production design: Stefan Dechant; set decoration: Nancy Haigh
“West Side Story,” production design: Adam Stockhausen; set decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Will win: “Dune”
Should win: “Dune”
Could surprise: “Nightmare Alley”

I’ve waffled between “Dune’s” imposing sets and “Nightmare Alley’s” Art Deco/surreal carnival combo. (Both films could stake a claim to “most” production design.) I’m landing on “Dune,” thinking it’s going to be this year’s version of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” cleaning up in the crafts categories.

SCORE

“Don’t Look Up,” Nicholas Britell
“Dune,” Hans Zimmer
“Encanto,” Germaine Franco
“Parallel Mothers,” Alberto Iglesias
“The Power of the Dog,” Jonny Greenwood

Will win: “Dune”
Should win: “Parallel Mothers”
Could upset: “The Power of the Dog”

Between “The Power of the Dog,” “Spencer” and contributions to “Licorice Pizza,” Greenwood was the composer of the year. But Zimmer has been cruising through the precursor awards. He last won for 1994’s “The Lion King” and has been nominated 10 times since. It looks like the time is right for the prolific composer to score again.

Franco is the first Latina and first woman of color ever to be nominated for original score at the Academy Awards.

March 22, 2022

ORIGINAL SONG

“Be Alive” (“King Richard”); music and lyric by Dixson and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
“Dos Oruguitas” (“Encanto”); music and lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda
“Down to Joy” (“Belfast”); music and lyric by Van Morrison
“No Time to Die” (“No Time to Die”); music and lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
“Somehow You Do” (“Four Good Days”); music and lyric by Diane Warren

Will win: “No Time to Die”
Should win: “Dos Oruguitas”
Could surprise: “Dos Oruguitas”

Tough call between Eilish’s Bond theme and Miranda’s sweet folk song. “Dos Oruguitas” was more central to the film’s story, but I think Eilish’s star power gives her the edge.

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SOUND

“Belfast,” Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri
“Dune,” Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett
“No Time to Die,” Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor
“The Power of the Dog,” Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb
“West Side Story,” Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy

Will win: “Dune”
Should win: “Dune”

How does this sound? “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuune!”

The 2022 Oscar best picture nominees include only one to gross more than $100 million in theaters. Who knows how many saw other titles on streaming?

Feb. 8, 2022

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Dune,” Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer
“Free Guy,” Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis and Dan Sudick
“No Time to Die,” Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver
“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick

Will win: “Dune”
Should win: “Dune”

“Dune” has a best picture nomination (a huge advantage in this category). Plus sandworms. That’s unbeatable.

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ANIMATED SHORT

“Affairs of the Art”
“Bestia”
“Boxballet”
“Robin Robin”
“The Windshield Wiper”

Will win: “Robin Robin”
Should win: “Bestia”
Could surprise: “Bestia”

Aardman’s “Robin Robin” has songs, plus Gillian Anderson. It’s the most accessible of this eclectic group.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

“Audible”
“Lead Me Home”
“The Queen of Basketball”
“Three Songs for Benazir”
“When We Were Bullies”

Will win: “The Queen of Basketball”
Should win: “Audible”
Could surprise: “Audible”

The poignant refugee story “Three Songs for Benazir” would also be a worthy choice, but I think voters will go for either Ben Proudfoot’s portrait of a groundbreaking female basketball star or Matt Ogens’ “Audible,” which memorably follows a Deaf high school football player.

LIVE ACTION SHORT

“Ala Kachuu — Take and Run”
“The Dress”
“The Long Goodbye”
“On My Mind”
“Please Hold”

Will win: “The Long Goodbye”
Should win: “Please Hold”
Could surprise: “Ala Kachuu — Take and Run”

The searing Riz Ahmed-led “The Long Goodbye” has the highest profile. And it packs a powerful anti-racist message into its 12-minute running time.

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Twenty years ago, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington became the first and only Black actors to win both lead acting Oscars in the same night. It’s a milestone the film academy hasn’t lived up to.

March 23, 2022

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